tv NBC Nightly News NBC September 3, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
on the broadcast tonight their turn the democrats descend on charlotte. the pressure is now on the president to make his case and tonight the republicans are already pushing back asking are you better off? still under water after isaac the storm in the gulf is over but the problems are not. in the midwest, did the rain make any dent in the terrible drought? battling back. she survived one horrie day. tonight a determined woman competes on the world stage in a whole new way. and dressed for success. prince harry makes his first public appearance since that embarrassing over exposure in las vegas. embarrassing over exposure in las vegas. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. i'm kate snow in for brian
tonight. on this labor day as americans enjoy the traditional last weekend of summer and a lot of kids are heading back to school, president obama and the democrats are preparing for their big moment. it is their turn to make their case that the president deserves four more years. their convention opens tomorrow in north carolina, and tonight as thousands of democrats descend on the city of charlotte republicans have already begun their counterattack, asking a question that we've heard before -- are you better off now than you were four years ago? we have two reports tonight beginning in charlotte with our political director and chief white house correspondent who is down there somewhere chuck todd. good evening. >> good evening, kate. while the republican convention was designed to reintroduce the country to mitt romney as a person this democratic convention is getting off to a bit of a defensive start as the obama campaign seems to be struggling with touting improvements to the economy without looking insensitive to the millions still struggling.
gathering in charlotte to make the case their economic vision is better for america than the one outlined by mitt romney and the republicans last week democrats were thrown off balance by an old gop message repeated by the vice presidential candidate today. >> the president can say a lot of things and he will but he can't tell you you're better off. >> reporter: it is the same question ronald reagan used to oust a democratic president in 1980. >> are you better off than you were four years ago? >> reporter: and on sunday the obama campaign struggled to answer it. >> can you honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago? >> no, but that's not the question of this election. >> are we where we need to be? no. >> reporter: thanks to headlines noting team obama's inability to answer the question with a simple yes the campaign didn't want to leave any gray area and changed its tune this morning. >> are we better off today than we were four years ago when president obama was elected? >> absolutely.
>> we are clearly better off as a country because we're now creating jobs rather than losing them. >> reporter: later on the trail in detroit vice president biden specifically called out reporters to make sure they heard his answer to the question. >> folks, let me make something clear and say it to the press. america is better off today than they left us. you want to know whether we're better off? i got a little bumper sticker for you. osama bin laden is dead and general motors is alive! >> reporter: all of this as a new poll today showed romney with a four-point lead in the state that the president turned blue four ars ago. the task for this convention week according to campaign aides is to paint where the country is today versus where it had been when george bush left office. highlighting the decisions president obama made on issues like health care and the auto bail out. the first key messenger michelle obama checked out the arena this afternoon in advance of her speech tomorrow night. other key speakers include san antonio's mayor castro, massachusetts candidate
elizabeth warren and former president bill clinton. all have their remarks aimed at key democratic constituencies. >> the obama campaign got another convention headache earlier this morning when the chairman of the california democratic party publicly compared paul ryan to nazi propagandaist joseph goebbels. the romney campaign took offense and called for a full repudiation of the remarks. the obama campaign did repudiate the remarks but did not call on mr. burton the chairman of the california party to resign. kate? >> chuck todd in north carolina tonight. president obama spent this holiday on the campaign trail with a stop in a key swing state today before moving on to see flood damage in louisiana. kristen welker is traveling with the president and joins us from new orleans. good evening, kristen. >> reporter: good evening, kate. we are in new orleans where president obama took a detour from the campaign trail to meet with those affected by hurricane isaac and to survey the most heavily impacted areas. louisiana is a republican
stronghold. he has no chance of winning this state in november but if the lessons of katrina taught this administration anything it's that mishandling this type of crisis could be politically damaging especially two months before election day. >> i want to commend everyone here for the extraordinary work they've done in making sure lives were saved, that although there was tremendous property damage people were in a position to get out quickly and as you can see folks are on the ground already clearing out the debris and making sure that they're able to recover as rapidly as possible. i want to particularly thank fema and the state and local authorities because sometimes in the past we haven't seen the kind of coordination that is necessary in response to these kinds of disasters. this time we've seen it.
>> reporter: president obama will spend the evening at the white house then tomorrow heads down to another swing state, virginia. that is his last stop before heading to north carolina, the democratic national convention, where he is slated to give his acceptance speech thursday night. kate? >> kristen welker in new orleans tonight. flood waters from isaac are still posing serious problems in the very area where president obama is touring today. nbc's gabe gutierrez is still in the region. he has more tonight on the message people in places like laplace, louisiana want the president to hear. gabe? >> reporter: kate, good evening. late last week almost a million homes and businesses in louisiana were without power. now that number is down to 125,000. for many neighborhoods like this one, this cleanup won't be over for months. >> this wasn't supposed to happen. >> much of cheryl broussard's life is now on her front yard. >> i just couldn't believe it was happening because we're friends with all these people
and it just breaks your heart. >> reporter: for 13 years she and her husband kent have lived in laplace, an area that has flooded before but not like this. >> watch the mail box. >> reporter: the height of the storm caught on this home video. other neighborhoods nearby are in even worse shape. there is still standing water six days later. >> we have no levee. it had nowhere to go but this way. >> reporter: that is the message we heard over and over again in this town 30 miles outside new orleans as the president made his way to louisiana. >> i would ask him to make sure that the people in the neighborhood who live here, who came here to build their lives here are protected from those flood waters not just the big city. >> reporter: many small towns are still reeling from isaac. about 2500 people in the state are still in shelters. in plaquemines parish, scenes like this are all too familiar. >> when i got here friday, there were so many memories of katrina. it was very emotional for a lot of people because it had that
stench if you will. >> just really nasty. >> reporter: and as the broussard family cleans up they also wonder why they weren't told to evacuate before the storm. >> we are not irresponsible people. we've left for every hurricane. we never, ever stay. >> reporter: the remnants of isaac may have moved on. >> it's not over. we have a long haul. i'm hoping by christmas we're back in our house. >> reporter: but the heartache remains. so far about 65,000 people in louisiana have applied for federal disaster aid. kate? >> gabe gutierrez, continuing to report from the gulf. thank you. for farmers in the midwest who have been suffering through this summer's historic drought the remnants of isaac could not have come soon enough. this weekend's storms were actually welcomed there but are they easing the drought? >> a lot of folks watching the radar this morning. >> reporter: in rural illinois
the talk of the day was the talk of the season -- weather. >> everybody has said all summer, the only way we're going to end the drought is with a hurricane. well, we've got the hurricane. now everybody's, well, how much rain are we going to get out of the hurricane? >> reporter: just a few miles away, the rumble of thunder and skies swollen with rain clouds brought some relief to farmer bob biel. >> this is something new. it's hard to get used to what rain feels like. >> reporter: his corn bears the scars of a long, hot summer. ears half the size they should be. by now his region has usually received around 15 inches of rain. not this year. >> we've only had like 2 inches since april and crops are all definitely showing the stress. >> reporter: the nation's heartland has been hit hard by the worst drought on record. isaac's path cut directly through that region bringing much needed rain. in some places such as pine bluff, arkansas too much rain. >> 7 plus inches worth of rain in a very short period of time causing a lot of flooding. >> reporter: it was the opposite
problem for the mississippi river -- runoff from isaac's remnants doing little to raise water levels. in missouri and illinois, a mixed blessing. for this corn, it's too little too late. the rains that are coming down now won't make much of a difference because the growing season is nearly over. but it will make a difference for these soybeans. >> maybe up to 5% difference. the soybeans i'm sure will take that up rather quickly and help fill out the seeds. >> reporter: a good start but nowhere near what is needed. >> they'll need steady rains during the cool season, above normal rainfall or precipitation. a good winter snow pack. >> reporter: for now biel will savor what little rainfall he gets. nbc news, belleville, illinois. in california thousands of people were turned away from a popular destination this holiday weekend because of a raging wildfire there. more than 4,000 acres of the angeles national forest have now burned. today captured from the air this
unusual image of a so-called fire tornado, a column of flames you see there. still ahead as "nightly news" continues for this labor day, our special series, "far from home." tonight a green beret helping to train afghan police at a dangerous time when friends sometimes become enemies. and later, what happens when the cameras catch prince harry today? it is the first we've seen of him since that wild night in vegas.
the so-called insider attacks have killed dozens of americans so far this year. nbc's jim maceda spent some time recently with u.s. special forces including a green beret whose mission has become a lot more dangerous. >> reporter: sergeant first class b. rolls out of his bunk at dawn. a green beret he can't use his real name or show his full face but his mornings with pistol in hand include a daily cardio workout and a breakfast of eggs and bacon bagels with syrup. before the sun is too high, he is breaking in a group of new afghan recruits to take over security as u.s. troops leave. the afghan local police or a.l.p. is an armed militia who come from the very villages they protect. >> know all the faces of who should be in town and when something does happen, when the taliban come into the village,
they'll be the first guys to be called. >> reporter: it may seem like an unusual role for those known more for their secret kill or capture missions, but b., an ex-paratrooper from waynesville, missouri on his fourth deployment says the special forces training is paying off. >> they get down and they return fire and are willing to take it to them. >> reporter: with the recent surge of insider attacks the line between friend and enemy has become dangerously blurred. at least 45 nato-led troops, mostly americans, have been killed this year by afghan forces. now some training has been suspended while thousands of afghan police and soldiers are more thoroughly vetted for any taliban ties. b. admits his mission is risky and frustrating. his recruits, often middle aged, can be hard to train. but he says bonds remain strong in his unit. >> interacting with them, getting to know them, know their family, how many kids they have.
you can build that trust. >> reporter: despite the spate of killings, u.s. commanders say the training program is working and that it has to. there's just too much at stake. the more successful these afghan local police are at keeping a lid on the taliban the faster u.s. troops go home. as one american commander put it, this is it. there is no plan b. at times, b. misses the old days of kicking in doors and taking no prisoners. >> i feel that i'm part of the bigger picture now training the a.l.p. >> it's worth the tradeoff? >> yes it is, absolutely. >> reporter: especially if that means coming home sooner to his wife and 2-year-old son. jim maceda, nbc news, afghanistan. when we come back, in the movies he is the master and commander but in a kayak over the weekend a different story for a hollywood hero.
prince harry hasn't been seen publicly since his visit to las vegas two weeks ago after the nude photos told an embarrassing story. but tonight the prince has re-emerged. here is nbc's stephanie gosk in london. >> reporter: a prince can't keep a low profile forever. eventually harry had to make a public appearance. tonight it was for charity, an awards ceremony for critically ill children. the prince, now fully clothed, turned on the charm. harry's appearance was scheduled long before last month's embarrassing over exposure in las vegas, but there was no doubt it was on people's minds today. 6-year-old alex logan suffering from leukemia was on british tv before hand and was asked what he would say when he met the prince. >> i'm glad you've got your clothes on prince harry. >> reporter: but harry gently made sure the subject never came up. still, when he took the podium tonight the prince knew he had an obstacle to overcome. >> all of you are, quite frankly, too remarkable for me
adequately to describe with mere words, but never one to be shy at coming forward, i'll give it a go. >> reporter: it was a simple, unspoken acknowledgment that let him get on with the important task at hand. >> it's you that represent the very best of britain. your spirit triumphs through adversity and makes our every day worries seem very, very insignificant. >> reporter: this is the prince harry who has impressed the country in recent months. the grandson who stood in for the queen at the olympics closing ceremony, the army helicopter pilot who might soon be heading back to afghanistan. everyone knows there's something wild about harry, but moments like this might be even more revealing. stephanie gosk, nbc news, london. and he was the charismatic captain of his ship in the movie "master and commander" but this holiday weekend actor russel crowe was a bit navigationally challenged.
that's crowe in the middle after being rescued by the coast guard. he and a friend were kayaking off new york's long island on sunday when it got dark and they got lost. they were picked up ten miles or so from where they set out. a coast guard officer says no one was hurt. they just needed a little help. we learned tonight that the actor michael clarke duncan has died in los angeles. his breakthrough role of course was in "the green mile" alongside tom hanks. duncan was nominated for an oscar as best supporting actor. he had had a heart attack this past july. michael clarke duncan was 54 years old. up next, a woman, a mother, and a real fighter realizing a dream she never knew she had.
just like the date 9/11 holds special meaning for americans so, too, does the date 7/7 for the british. seven years ago on july 7th london went from the joy of being named host city of the 2012 olympic games to one of the darkest days in its history. many people's lives changed including a woman who survived that day and is now competing on the world stage in an unexpected way. her story tonight from our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman.
>> reporter: she's no shrinking violet. >> i've always been confident. definitely outgoing. i'm a person that the glass is half full instead of half empty. >> reporter: on july 6th, 2005, she, like much of london, was awaiting word from the international olympic committee about the 2012 games. >> the games of the 30th olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of london. >> i remember jumping up and down like an absolute -- >> reporter: after that night of celebration there were several small decisions that would change martine's life forever. she slept in an extra ten minutes, changed her route to work, and hopped on the underground here. >> i remember going into a tunnel and then about ten seconds later just a white flash
in front of my eyes. >> reporter: four feet away a fellow passenger blew himself up, one of four suicide bombings that took the lives of 52 people. >> i just remember the smell of, you know, the smoke, the sounds of people screaming. >> reporter: her life was saved by a quick-thinking off-duty policewoman. her life but not her legs. >> i thought, i've got two choices. either i can lie down and never walk again and just question why me for the rest of my life or get up and do something with my life. >> reporter: and that she has -- learning to ski, fly, sky dive, getting married, and becoming a mother. and now as part of great britain's first ever women's sitting volleyball team. >> i'm playing a sport where it is quite advantageous. >> reporter: what makes martine special? >> martine is a real bunter. she knows this is all part of the dog fight for her. she wants it so badly.
>> that whole thing about paralympics, it's not about oh, they're triers. give them a go. we're professional, elite sportswomen. and we don't need any favors. >> reporter: you're unbelievably fast. >> yeah, yeah, i am fast. >> reporter: another strength? her perspective. >> you might go through the most darkest days of your life, the most traumatic days, but, you know, you can get positive things from it and you can achieve dreams that you never, ever dreamed of. >> nbc's dr. nancy snyderman reporting there. one last note on that. martine wilkshire wears the number 7 on her uniform and says it makes that date a positive in her life. that is our broadcast for this monday night labor day. thank you for being with us. i'm kate snow. brian williams will see you tomorrow evening from the democratic national convention in charlotte, north carolina.